Inside Business Insider’s Story About a Failed American Tech Dream

What’s wrong with this picture? A software engineer spent 8 hours daily applying to entry-level coding jobs for 6 months. She was rejected 357 times before receiving an offer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that by 2026 the shortage of engineers in the US will exceed 1.2M.

Nebojsa "Nesha" Todorovic Hacker Noon profile picture

It was one of those days when I really wanted to read an interesting story. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a title, such as this one:

A software engineer spent 8 hours daily applying to entry-level coding jobs for 6 months. She was rejected 357 times before receiving an offer.

I wanted to read more, but I couldn’t, at first. Why? Because I hit the paywall, what’s why.


I had to play along, and sacrifice one of my emails. OK. Moving on with my story about the Business Insider’s story. Where was I? Ah, I remember.

Wait! How is that even possible? Something ain’t right here!

In 2019, before the pandemic hit, CompTIA reported that the US had a shortage of roughly 918,000 software engineers in the talent pools.

You would think that’s the bad news…Well, wait until you read this, as well:

We are living an ever-worsening rise in the demand for software engineers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that by 2026 the shortage of engineers in the US will exceed 1.2M.


The Chicken or The Egg First Job Dilemma

We’ve all been there at one point in our careers, haven’t we? It’s one of your first job interviews. The first question is about your working experience. And, round and round we go.

You know what? It doesn’t have to be this way. I was reading an answer to an interesting question on Quora when I stumbled upon this great comment (the author gave his permission for his comment to be shared online):


As you can see, this gentleman found a way. I’m not saying is the best possible way, but it clearly worked for him. Back to the hero of our Business Insider story.

Sophia Cheong’s career started at a Korean barbecue restaurant in California.

Then a coworker started teaching her how to code. 

I wish I could say, and the rest is history, but unfortunately, I can’t.

Cheong immediately used the money she had saved from restaurant paychecks to enroll in a 13-week software-engineering boot camp called Hack Reactor, where she completed over 1,000 hours of full-stack coding.

Let me sum up the “highlights” of her six-month-long epic job hunt journey:

  • Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Cheong applied to every entry-level software-engineering job or internship she could find
  • Cheong had interviewed with 40 employers and been rejected 357 times by companies big and small
  • On top of submitting applications, she reached out to tech recruiters every day and created an online portfolio
  • Cheong said, adding that recruiters would suggest reaching out in a year after she had more experience

And, you know how they say, the night is darkest just before the dawn. True. So true.

The same week Cheong was supposed to head back to working at the restaurant, she received two job offers.

That’s it! The happy ending we’ve all been waiting for. Nothing more to read or talk about here. I’m not sure whether or not I’m the only one, but I just couldn’t let it go. There was something more to this from-zero-to-hero story, but I couldn’t figure out what it was exactly.


What Happened to the Mother of all Questions?

Do you remember the Quora guy who had to sacrifice one working week to get a job? Of course, you do. But, did you know that I had to sacrifice both my pride and price to get my very first freelance gig? I got two bucks and a five-star review for my first freelance project.

Don’t you find it a little bit hard to believe that the Business Insider’s journalist or contributor forgot or missed to ask the most important question of them all?

Haven’t you heard about freelance platforms? Why haven’t you tried your luck as a freelancer too?

I know what you’re going to say, hey Nesha, you gorgeous, but a biased example of environment-friendly masculinity and articles readability, you want to mention your beloved freelance website – goLance. Sorry, but that’s not true.

Sophia Cheong could’ve signed up on Upwork. Or, how about Freelancer dot com? With all due respect, I think that Toptal would’ve been a mission impossible for a beginner. Also, Fiverr is all about the gigs. So, I would gladly recommend it to Sophia if she had taken a web design rather than a coding course.

Finally, instead of sharing her story on LinkedIn, Sophia should have submitted it here, on Hacker Noon. She could have also become a member of the growing Slogging Community. There are no guarantees, but at least, she wouldn’t have to deal with the aftermath of her LinkedIn post when:

Hundreds of job applicants struggling to find work flooded the comment section, asking for advice and sharing similar stories of constant rejections.

Don’t get me wrong. Words of support and comfort mean a lot, especially, if you find out that you aren’t the only one going through the hell of the first job hunting. But, I’m pretty much sure that Sophia got tired of words while searching for jobs.

And The Moral of Your Story Is?

To be quite honest, I’m not sure. I think that the good old American Tech Dream is alive and kicking. If you are a job finder, who also happened to be a developer, don’t believe everything you read in Business Insider. I just threw a rhyme right here and now – for the record.

Coders, beginners or veterans, freelance websites, and Hacker Noon stories: that’s the ‘Holy Tech Trinity.’


One last thing, as you already know, it’s the Noonies Awards season. I’m this year’s Nominee for the Critical Thinker of the Year. So, keep an eye on me and my stories. Voting opens on November 15th! Stay safe, work remote, and don’t forget to vote!

Nebojsa "Nesha" Todorovic Hacker Noon profile picture


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